Nurses Group Pursues Stringent Penalties for Staffing Violations
The California Nurses Association is sponsoring a bill (SB 554) that would allow the state Department of Public Health to levy fines on acute care hospitals for violations of nurse staffing mandates, Payers & Providers reports.
Officials at CNA and other labor unions contend that many hospitals are failing to comply with the state's nurse staffing laws by:
- Failing to properly replace nurses when they take work breaks;
- Inappropriately using licensed vocational nurses; or
- Not adding more nurses when patient acuity rises.
Existing Law Details
Several years ago, California passed a law establishing mandatory nurse-to-patient ratios for different hospital units. For example, the law calls for one nurse per patient in trauma units and one nurse per five patients in general medical-surgical units.
Currently, DPH can issue deficiency notices to hospitals that fall short of the staffing requirements. However, the department does not regularly inspect hospitals for compliance.
In general, DPH reserves corrective actions and administrative penalties for cases in which patients are in "immediate jeopardy" because of medical errors orÂ inadequate care.
SB 554 would allow DPH to impose penalties of up to $10,000 for each nurse staffing ratio violation after four such violations in a six-month period. Another $10,000 fine could be levied if a hospital does not follow its corrective plan after receiving a penalty.
The bill also would require hospitals to be inspected for compliance at least every two years.
Jan Emerson-Shea -- vice president of external communications at the California Hospital Association -- said CHA has not yet taken a position on the new bill.
CHA opposed the original nurse staffing legislation and has combated other attempts to stiffen penalties for noncompliance (Payers & Providers, 3/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.